Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joel David Rifkin: New York's Most Prolific Serial Killer

Last Rampage

Leah Evens
Leah Evens

Rifkins first victim of 1993 was Leah Evens, a 28-year-old who lived with her mother in Brooklyn. Abandoned by the father of her two children, Evens found solace in drugs and worked the streets to keep herself well. Rifkin found her tricking on February 27, 1993, stopping for sex in an abandoned parking lot. Evens started to undress, then balked, demanding greater privacy. Rifkin refused, strangling her when she started to cry. Afterward, he drove Evens to the far eastern end of Long Island and buried her in the woods, the only one of his victims who rated a shallow grave. Hikers found her on May 9 after they spied a withered hand protruding from the ground. A forensic anthropologist was hired to reconstruct the victims face, but Rifkin confessed before the model was finished. Police found Evens drivers license at his home.

The next to die, Lauren Marquez, was a 28-year-old addict and prostitute, hooked on drugs before she left her native Tennessee for New York City. Rifkin picked her up on April 2, 1993, while she was working Second Avenue. They drove to a point near the Manhattan Bridge, Rifkin clutching at her throat without the usual preliminaries. Briefly distracted by a man who passed the car walking a dog, he almost let Marquez escape. She fought him, resisting strangulation until he snapped her neck. Rifkin dumped her body in the Suffolk County pine barrens, where she lay undiscovered until his arrest. Besides a broken neck, Marquez had fractured ribs, though Rifkin claimed he could not remember hitting her. She was identified through DNA testing on August 20, 1993.

Rifkins last victim, Tiffany Bresciani, was another southern girl. She hailed from Metairie, Louisiana, and had been drawn to New York by dreams of acting or dancing. Instead, she wound up hooked on heroin, performing for strangers in strip clubs and cars. By the time Rifkin found her, in the predawn hours of June 24, 1993, she was his second hooker of the night--his fourth within two days. Rifkin picked her up on Allen Street and drove her to the New York Posts parking lot, where he strangled her at 5:30 a.m. From there, he drove back to East Meadow, stopping at stores along the way for rope and tarp, while Bresciani lay sprawled in the backseat of his mothers car. By the time he got home, she was swaddled in tarp and concealed in the trunk.

Rifkin had just arrived home when his mother demanded her car keys and embarked on a 30-minute shopping trip, with the corpse still in the trunk. Rifkin had no time to move the corpse, but his mother never knew. Relieved of his little anxiety attack, Joel moved Bresciani into the cluttered garage, leaving her body in a wheelbarrow. Then, as if in a fugue state, he spent the next three days working on his pickup, ignoring the summer heat and pervasive reek of decomposing flesh. He was on his way to dump the corpse near Melvilles Republic Airport, some 15 miles north of his house, when Troopers Ruane and Spaargaren noted his lack of a rear license plate.

The killing game was over, but the quest for justice had only begun.

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